Arnold Josiah Ford

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Rabbi Arnold Josiah Ford (23 April 1877 – 16 September 1935) was the first black rabbi in America, and a prominent member of Harlem's Black Jews.

Biography[edit]

Ford was born in Barbados to Edward Thomas Ford and Elizabeth Augustine Ford. He grew up to became a musician in the Royal Navy before settling in the United States.

Talented as a linguist, poet, musician and composer of many Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA-ACL) songs, Ford co-authored The Universal Ethiopian Anthem with Benjamin E. Burrell. Ford officially functioned as director of UNIA Band, Orchestra, Band of the African Legion, and the Liberty Hall Choir. He published the Universal Ethiopian Hymnal in 1920.

In 1930 he and a small group of Black Jews went to Ethiopia, where they participated in the coronation of Emperor Haile Selassie, created a school, and acquired 800 acres (320 ha) of land for the purpose of uniting Black Jews of the Diaspora with their brothers already in Ethiopia. He died there in 1935.

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